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Fallout 3 and Windows 7

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve had a copy of Fallout 3 for a long time now. I bought the Collectors Edition on a whim not long after the game out, and as I write this, Vault Boy is staring at me. Getting Fallout 3 working properly on Windows 7 on my new PC was a bit time consuming, including some aggravating bugs that took a while to hunt down. Note that I’m not using the Steam version, but rather the original version that came in the Collectors Edition lunch box.

    1. Install Fallout 3. This should go ahead without any hitches.
    2. Download the 1.7 patch, but do not install it yet. You can get the 1.7 patch from here.
    3. Download and install the latest Games for Windows Live runtime, available here. You don’t have to sign into the program, just have it installed. Without it, patch 1.7 doesn’t work properly, and Fallout 3 won’t launch.
    4. Install patch 1.7.

You may notice that Fallout 3 isn’t added to Games Explorer in Windows 7, despite it being Games for Windows certified. More irritating is that it was added to Games Explorer in Windows Vista. We can fix this by doing the following:

  1. Open up a command prompt with Administrative Privileges.
  2. Go to your Fallout 3 install directory.
  3. Enter GDFInstall /richext .fos /exe “<Path\To\>Fallout3.exe” GDFFallout3.dll

If the command was entered correctly, you should have a small dialog box popping up confirming success. If you now check Games Explorer, Fallout 3 should be there.

Lastly, I had a problem where my game would freeze up anywhere between 5-10 minutes playing time. It was particularly bad after entering a new building. The game music kept playing, but the game was frozen rock solid. A bit of searching on the net gave me some tweaks to make to your Fallout.ini file, located in C:\Users\username\Documents\My Games. Make the following changes:

  1. Find the line bUseThreadedAI=0, and change the 0 to 1.
  2. Directly below this line, insert the following line: iNumHWThreads=2

With those 2 tweaks, the game has been behaving solidly for me now, with no more crashing after 5-10 minutes. From what I gather, the Gamebryo engine used in Fallout 3 is pretty picky about what it will run on. The amount of cores in a modern PC is a bit more that what was around when Fallout 3 originally came out.

Hopefully, with these tweaks, you will get some enjoyment out of the game. I’m really glad Bethesda switched to the Creation engine for Skyrim, it’s been far less buggy for me than any of the games that used the Gamebryo engine. I had Fallout 3 installed on my old PC, but the sound crackling issues with my Creative X-Fi eventually made me give up and move onto other games. The game worked fine in Windows XP, but I had already made the move to Vista by then. I didn’t feel it was worth it to keep XP around for just one game, so I didn’t bother. I’m enjoying the game so far, but as usual with a large RPG, there are many more hours to go.

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Project Resurrection

December 1, 2012 Leave a comment

A week ago, I did the most insane things I’ve ever done to a piece of computer hardware: put it in the oven and bake it. It seems like an insane idea, but it worked, and it managed to bring a piece of equipment back from the dead. Let me explain.

IMG_0047

Just over 2 years ago, I had an Asus 8800GTX graphics card in my old computer. It was an old card, but it was powerful and I was able to play every game I wanted to. I had the card in service for about 2 years give or take. I got home from a conference one evening and started playing Mass Effect 2. About 20 minutes into the game, my screen went to hell. Stripes all over the place, purple, pink and blue blocks and all sorts of other anomalies. I immediately shut the computer down and pulled the power for an hour, hoping it would fix the problem. Sadly, it didn’t help. After restarting the computer, the same corruption was still present.

I concluded that the card was dead, and I proceeded to order an EVGA GTX480 card, which is still going strong to this day. I put the 8800GTX into my cupboard, having no idea what to do with the thing.

Later on, I came across people who had managed to fix their problem by baking the card. Apparently, the solder Nvidia were using on the 8 series cards was problematic, leading to this problem with many cards produced around that time. Baking the card heats and softens up the soldering, allowing it to fill any micro cracks and fissures that caused the corruption in the first place. I eventually screwed up my courage to bake the card, as I had nothing to lose, but if it worked, I would have brought something back from the dead that cost me a lot of money back in the day.

WARNING: Only attempt to do this if your card has solid capacitors. Liquid capacitors may leak, bulge or explode in the oven at the baking temperature.

These are the steps I took:

  • Strip the card down to the absolute basics and clean off all thermal paste on the chip and RAM chips. In my case, I had a 3rd party heat sink and RAM heat sinks, so I removed those. I didn’t have any special thermal cleansers, so I used raw freshly squeezed lemon juice, after which I wiped the surface again with water to remove any trace of the lemon juice.
  • IMG_0042

  • Place a sheet of aluminium foil on a shallow baking tray, and make 4 rolled up foil balls. Place the graphics card on the foil balls, making sure the card balances properly. Try to make sure that the balls don’t touch any wiring traces on the card.
  • Move any racks in the oven, so that the baking tray will sit as close to the middle of the oven as possible. This will lead to a more even heat distribution.
  • Preheat your oven up to 200°C. Don’t put the card in until the oven until it is ready.
  • Bake the card for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove the card and let it cool for about 90 minutes.
  • Reassemble, and test the card.

I baked mine for 8 minutes, let it sit 1 minute more with the oven power off for a total of 9 minutes. After that I let it cool off for the 90 minutes. The next day, I applied fresh thermal paste to the stock heat sink/fan that came with the card, screwed everything in and proceeded to install the card in my old computer. It was a nervous time waiting for the computer to boot and an image to display on the screen, but when it did, it was worth it. The image was clean and back to the way it was meant to be. No stripes, blocks or corruption.

    I haven’t had a chance to do any sort of stress testing on the card, nor do I know how long this fix will last for. It might last for 6 months, or it may last for a lot longer.
    For anyone who has had this problem, I recommend giving the baking method a try. So long as it isn’t your primary graphics card, you don’t have much to lose, but in turn, you stand to gain a repaired card.